The government plans to invest more money into supporting the most vulnerable in our communities as part of Budget 2017.
A $321 million Social Investment Package made up of 14 initiatives designed to help New Zealand's most vulnerable improve their circumstances, will be included in this year's budget.
As part of this package, an extra $68.8m over four years will be invested to support vulnerable children and their families, of which, $28.1m will be used to expand the Family Start home visits programme.
Minister for Children Anne Tolley believes it's important to intervene early and target support to families and whānau whose children are at risk of poor education, health and social outcomes.
“Family Start is a good example of the Government's social investment approach – focusing on the needs of individuals and families, intervening early, and tailoring support around what we know delivers the best results for Kiwis.”
Anne says this investment will increase the number of Family Start places by about 570 participants a year and will provide intensive support to more than 7100 at-risk families at any one time.
The package also includes a $34.7m investment into expanding support services already available for children with severe behavioural difficulties, with a particular focus on children aged eight and under.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye says the government expects the number of children receiving specialist behavioural support to increase from about 5000 to 6000 children annually.
“By providing more support earlier, such as working with an educational psychologist or special education advisor, we're aiming to help steer more young children onto a positive path in life, and also reduce disruption in the classroom which can compromise other students' learning.”
The package also includes $6m over four years to support three and four year olds with oral language difficulties, with more specialised support expected to be provided to about 7600 children and access to enhanced language support to made available to up to 50,000 children.
“If children enter primary school behind their peers when it comes to basic language skills, this can affect their learning and have a detrimental effect on their future prospects.
“This investment will upskill up to 1920 teachers working in early childhood education in lower socio-economic areas, to help them better support young children showing difficulties with the building blocks of literacy, such as letter and word awareness and listening comprehension.”
Social Investment Minister Amy Adams says the government is focused on investing in areas where it can make the most difference and Budget 2017 will contain the next steps toward embedding social investment as core practice.
“Initiatives in the Social Investment Package were selected following an in-depth investment analysis where a tough, evidence-based investment threshold was applied.
“Across the social system this Government is committed to funding what works. So Budget 2017 includes the most rigorous investment criteria ever used to ensure funding goes to evidence-based proposals that deliver long-run benefits for vulnerable people and for taxpayers.”
Based on a citizen centred approach, and judged against a whole of life understanding of cost and benefit, the bids were judged against the case for change, value-for-money, and effectiveness in delivering results, adds Amy.
Budget 2017 will be delivered on May 25.